Some Galewood residents said they fear a half-mile stretch of North Avenue could soon be known as “pawn shop row” if Chicago’s Zoning Board of Appeals gives the go-ahead for national retailer EZ Pawn to set up shop there.
The prospect of a fifth pawn store clustered along North Avenue just west of Narragansett Avenue has come under fire from a local alderman, as well as residents from Austin and neighboring Oak Park.
Ald. Nicholas Sposato (36th), whose ward would house EZ Pawn, and West Side community members addressed those concerns on Tuesday at their local CAPS (Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy) meeting.
“I could see one or two (pawn shops), but it will be five — it’s just no good,” said Galewood resident Thomas Simmons, who serves on the Amundsen Park Community Council.
On Jan. 18, the city’s planning and urban development committee said it would not recommend a special use permit for another pawn shop on that section of North Avenue. But, the committee added, a final decision ultimately rests with the zoning board.
Sposato and about 50 people from the West Side and Oak Park attended the hearing to oppose the shop. EZ Pawn is a national chain with more than 400 shops in 19 states and Mexico, according to the company’s website.
The zoning board could make a decision this week, Sposato told the dozen or so residents attending Tuesday’s CAPS meeting.
The Galewood community is located between Austin and Nagle Avenues and Fullerton and North Avenues. Oak Park residents who live near the area have joined the opposition. If approved by the zoning board, EZ Pawn would be located within Sposato’s 36th Ward, at least for now.
Once the redistricted wards take effect after the next municipal election in 2015, that section of Galewood will become part of Ald. Deborah Graham’s 29th Ward.
According to Sposato and some of the community members attending last Friday’s hearing, Graham submitted a letter of approval to the city for EZ Pawn. Graham did not return requests for comment prior to Austin Weekly News’ Wednesday morning deadline.
But the news of her apparent support upset Donald Glover, community liaison for Galewood’s CAPS police Beat 2513. Glover maintains that Graham did not hold a community hearing about the
“That’s not representation,” he said, adding that people should have a say in what happens in their community. “Without saying anything to the community, she signs a letter in support of it.”
EZ Pawn did approach Sposato roughly a year ago about opening the business. Sposato said his response was “no” after hearing widespread opposition from his constituents, and that “a year later it’s come back and reared its ugly head.”
The four existing pawn shops in the area are located from about Ridgeland to Hayes Avenues along North Avenue. Idella Mister, a Galewood resident of 27 years, said at the CAPS meeting that she understands the pros and cons of local pawn shops.
“If I need milk and food for my children, and I could pawn my ring to get $100 until I get a payday, then that’s in a good vein,” she said. “But if I want to pawn that ring to go buy drugs, the pawn shop is making it accessible for me.”
Simmons added that he’s concerned theft will go up in the area. And, he added, when people sell something to a pawn shop, the merchandise is usually kept in the back for 30 days.
“If somebody stole my lawnmower or my snow blower out of my garage, if it’s in back, I will not see it,” Simmons said.